A day after the Supreme Court dismissed the National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s plea challenging his bail, Elgaar Parishad case accused Anand Teltumbde was on Saturday afternoon released from Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai.
Speaking to media persons outside the jail, the scholar-activist said, “I am obviously happy to be released after 31 months for which I have been in prison. The sad part, however, is that we had to spend time in jail for years after being booked in a fake case and the way the case was put on us.”
Teltumbde was accompanied by wife Rama Ambedkar, who is the granddaughter of Dr B R Ambedkar, and, as per court order, will have to stay within the jurisdiction of the special NIA court, Mumbai, till conclusion of trial.
Senior advocate Mihir Desai had informed the Bombay High Court that while the petitioner’s address was mentioned as residing at the Goa Institute of Management, Sanquelim, Goa, due to efflux of time, the contract of Teltumbde with the said institute has come to an end and the residential address of the appellant would be Rajgruha, Hindu Colony, in Dadar (East). Rajgruha is a residence of the Ambedkar family.
Teltumbde, along with co-accused Gautam Navlakha, had surrendered at the NIA office in Mumbai and were formally arrested on April 14, 2020. Incidentally, that day marked Dr B R Ambedkar’s 129th birth anniversary. “I am happy about my client’s release on Constitution Day after over two years since his arrest,” said Desai after Teltumbde’s release.
Teltumbde was granted bail by a bench of Justices Ajey S Gadkari and Justice Milind N Jadhav of the Bombay High Court on November 18. “The seizure of the incriminating material, does not in any manner prima facie lead to draw an inference that appellant has committed or indulged in a ‘terrorist act’ as contemplated under Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA),” the HC had observed in its order.
Teltumbde (72), a former IIT professor and academic, had approached the HC last year against the rejection of his bail plea by a special NIA court. His plea claimed that he was never present at the Elgaar Parishad event on December 31, 2017, and did not make any provocative speeches.
The HC had directed that Teltumbde be released on bail on furnishing personal bond of Rs 1 lakh, along with sureties and asked him to appear before the police station where he resides once in a fortnight for a year and, thereafter, once in a month till conclusion of trial.
It also asked him to deposit his passport to the special NIA court and not leave its jurisdiction. He will have to seek prior permission of the trial court if he wants to travel within India.
The central agency challenged the order in the apex court, which dismissed its plea on Friday, saying it “will not interfere”.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud dismissed the NIA’s appeal with a two-line order: “The SLP is dismissed. However, the observations in the impugned judgment of the High Court shall not be treated as conclusive final findings in all proceedings.”
Thereafter, Teltumbde’s lawyers completed the bail formalities and a special NIA court in Mumbai issued the release memo on Friday evening. Teltumbde was informed about the Supreme Court’s decision by a lawyer after he was brought before the special court for a hearing along with the other arrested accused.
Of the 16 accused who were arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, nine were arrested by the Pune Police in 2018, and seven were arrested by the NIA after it took over the investigation in 2020. Teltumbde was arrested by the NIA on April 14, 2020 after he surrendered before the agency.
Teltumbde is the third of the 16 accused arrested in the case to be released on bail. Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao was granted bail on medical grounds by the Supreme Court in August this year. Lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj was granted default bail in December last year. Teltumbde is the first accused in the case to get bail on merits from the HC.
On November 19, Navlakha was moved from Taloja Central Prison to house arrest in Navi Mumbai after the Supreme Court rejected the NIA’s appeal against the court’s earlier order allowing his house arrest.
The other accused, including activists Vernon Gonsalves, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Arun Ferreira and Professor Shoma Sen, remain in jail.
One of the accused, Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist, passed away in July 2021 while in judicial custody.